Six ways to improve your heart health

February 10, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and having high blood pressure (also called hypertension) increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. Fortunately, up to 80% of heart disease is preventable.

February is recognized as American Heart Month and this month, and year-round, the university offers programs and resources that can help reduce your risk of hypertension and heart disease. Below are some steps you can take to reduce your risk.

Raise your awareness

Knowing your blood pressure numbers and whether you are at risk is important. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 1 in 3 U.S. adults – or about 75 million people – have high blood pressure, but only about half have their high blood pressure under control.

On Feb. 11, the Frankel Cardiovascular Center will host a Women’s Cardiovascular Health Livestream, “Getting to the Heart of the Matter.” A panel of Frankel CVC cardiologists will discuss the unique characteristics of heart health in women, how heart attack symptoms vary for women and more, including a Q&A with viewers.

To learn about your health right now, MHealthy’s confidential health questionnaire is available to benefits-eligible faculty and staff and U-M health plan enrolled spouse/OQA on the MHealthy Portal. In just a few minutes, you’ll learn about your well-being strengths and which areas may need attention. You’ll also get a tailored list of resources to support your needs.

Get moving

Experts recommend being physically active most days of the week. Move more by taking a free, live Zoom exercise and relaxation class on Slack. Benefits-eligible faculty and staff can also access MHealthy’s new exercise video library, featuring more than 50 on-demand videos, on the MHealthy Portal.

Eat healthfully and reduce your sodium intake

Eating healthier can help to reduce our risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, which can raise your risk of heart disease and heart attack. Additionally, too much sodium may cause your body to hold on to extra water, which can raise blood pressure and force your heart and kidneys to work harder.

To help you eat healthier, MHealthy offers a number of resources, including a free virtual cooking class series each month. Registration opens Feb. 14 for March’s series covering foods that can boost your mood and help you stay focused. You can also find more than 300 delicious and easy recipes on its website.

Manage stress

It’s no surprise that stress can trigger high blood pressure, heart attack and other cardiovascular risks. No-cost counseling services are available to staff, faculty, retirees, and adult dependents. And U-M health plans cover mental and behavioral health services like counseling, therapy and substance abuse treatment.

Quit tobacco 

No matter how long you’ve used tobacco, quitting will reduce your risk. The MHealthy Tobacco Consultation Service offers free, one-on-one counseling and eligible U-M drug plan members can get prescription and over-the-counter smoking cessation medications with no copay.

Limit alcohol consumption

Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. The MHealthy Alcohol Management Program offers no cost, confidential health education to help you cut back on your drinking or quit altogether— you decide which is the right approach for you. 

Find more heart healthy programs and resources available through MHealthy, the university, and on the MHealthy Portal, powered by Asset Health.